2011 Audi A8L

Matt Tierney

The Audi A8 may not have gotten an Automobile Magazine All-Star award this year, but it makes my own personal All-Star list. The A8 is a paragon of luxury, but it's interior has a totally different character than that of, say, the Jaguar XJ. While both vehicles are make use of fine-grained leather and high-quality wood and metal trim, the XJ feels overtly opulent while the A8 feels more restrained but still very rich.

It's true that the A8 is a large car, but it only feels big when you're trying to fit it into your garage, not when you're on the road. This would be a perfect car for a long road trip, with a delightfully smooth powertrain, adaptive cruise control, and plenty of room in the back seat for when you let your co-driver take over -- although that might not be too often.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

I also find the steering efforts somewhat off-putting. The unexpected resistance it offers in high-speed maneuvers increases the perceived size of a vehicle that doesn't need any help in this category. Fortunately, the issue is completely resolved by entering the "Vehicle" section of MMI and adjusting the steering to "Comfort." In this mode, the steering is light and accurate, which is how it should be in a vehicle like this. I cannot help but wonder how many Mercedes S-class and Lexus LS owners passed over the A8 because the steering happened to be set in Dynamic mode.

If it sounds as if we're nitpicking here, we are. The fact is, the A8 is one of the best competitors in a segment where everyone is bringing their best. I find the A8 to be the most engaging and exciting of the German full-size set even though it remains appropriately understated. The A8's bass-mouth, LED-infused face has matured to the point where it's no longer shocking or polarizing, yet remains interesting and distinctive. No review of an Audi can miss out on the fact that its interior is superb, and so it goes here. I will add that the complex assortment of controls that makes up the MMI interface becomes second nature once you spend enough time behind the wheel.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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